Smoked Lake Trout

Seneca and Cayuga Lake provide delicious lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and landlocked salmon. Seneca Lake is hot right now for lakers (with less spiny water fleas to mess up fishing lines). You may keep in combination up to 5 fish a day (to include no more than 3 lake trout and no more than 3 landlocked) with a minimum length of 15″, though there is an 18″ minimum for landlocked salmon on Cayuga Lake. DEC has a nice one page fishing regulation guide for the Finger Lakes region to print and have on hand. Some of the lake and brown trout caught over the weekend had a lovely orange hue, similar to salmon, due to the carotenoids in the flesh from the fish eating small crustaceans. Wild trout is very nutritious, being high in Omega-3 fatty acids and an excellent source of vitamin B12, Niacin, and protein.

To fillet the trout start with a very sharp fillet knife (a good fillet knife should have some flex to it). Place the fish on a cutting board with its spine facing you. Cut behind the gill in a slight arc to the backbone and slide the knife in a gently see-sawing action along the backbone and ribs to the tail. Leave the fillet attached to the end of the tail and turn the fillet over so the skin side is down. Then, starting where the fillet is attached to the tail, gently slide your fillet knife along the skin, keeping the skin taught, to remove the skin from the fillet. West Virginia Extension has an excellent Trout processing resource, including pictures and videos on how to butterfly fillet trout.
Once you have filleted and rinsed your trout place it in a brine for 4-12 hours. Brine should be kept cold, such as in a refrigerator.

Brine Ingredients
1/2 cup pickling or sea salt
2 quarts cold water
2-4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons pickling spices (you can experiment with other flavors, such as dill and lemon peel, garlic, Asian flavorings of soy, ginger and lemongrass, etc)

Make the brine by mixing all ingredients, making sure the salt dissolves. Make sure the brine is cold when fish are placed in it. Use a glass or ceramic container or non-reactive stainless.

Place trout in brine mixture, cover, and place in refrigerator for 4-12 hours (longer the brine, the saltier the finished product).  Remove trout fillets from brine and pat dry with paper towel then place them on slightly oiled metal racks (can use the smoker racks) and let them dry for about one hour to form a slight glossy shine, called a pellicle. This locks in the juices and flavors. A fan can be used to speed up the process.

Preheat the smoker and then smoke your fillets according to the directions of your smoker. Usually the fish will be smoked at 225 degrees until it reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees (about 2-3 hours).

Smoked Trout fillets are excellent served with crackers and cheese as an appetizer. They also make nice sandwiches, salad (similar to a tuna salad), and a spread when mixed with cream cheese, spices and spread on crackers or crusty bread. Delicious!

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